Blowout in Boise sends Idaho into WAC play on a high note

29 Dec

Marvin Jefferson throws down a highlight-reel jam against Lewis-Clark State.

BOISE — With the Qwest Arena clock reading 38.0, the Vandals’ Travis Blackstock grabbed a feed on the wing and launched a contested midrange jumper that didn’t seem to have a prayer.

His shot caught nothing but net.

The 4,111 fans in attendance exploded in cheers and applause for the beloved walk-on forward from nearby Kuna, as Blackstock put an exclamation point on a night that was all Idaho from start to finish. The Vandals rolled Lewis-Clark State, 71-52, in a neutral-court non-conference game that was never as close as its score would indicate. The contest was held as part of festivities for tomorrow’s Humanitarian Bowl.

Idaho, which improved to 7-4 on the eve of Western Athletic Conference play, was led by a strong showing from floor general Mac Hopson, who posted his first double-double of the season with 15 points and 10 rebounds on 4-10 shooting and 5-for-7 from the charity stripe. The Vandals outrebounded the Warriors, 42-32, and shot 50 percent for the game, 35 percent from beyond the arc.

“It’s always good to get a win, but in this great environment in front of a packed house, this was something special,” coach Don Verlin said. “I thought we played pretty well at times, especially defensively, and we rebounded the basketball well which is a real key.”

A near-NBA-range 3-pointer from Hopson sparked a crowd-pleasing 18-0 Vandal run early in the first half that put a quick end to any thoughts of a Warrior upset. The streak was punctuated by a two-handed fastbreak slam from Marvin Jefferson, who took a beautifully-placed feed from Steffan Johnson and jammed it home. LCSC coach Tim Walker called a timeout, but Idaho would score five more out of the break before giving up a bucket.

“I talked to Coach (Verlin) after the last couple games, he said I should try to be more aggressive about attacking the lane rather than settling for threes, and that’s what I did tonight,” Johnson said. “I have to keep developing my game week in and week out.”

Unlike Idaho’s last game against an NAIA foe, there was to be no miracle second-half comeback from the underdog this time. The period featured sloppy play all around, as LCSC was whistled for 7 fouls in the first 4 minutes while Idaho missed four of its first five shots.

After being down by as many as 20, the Warriors managed to cut the lead to 13 points with just under 7 minutes to play, backed by six straight points from forward Alex King. But they’d get no closer, as Vandal long-ball specialist Luciano de Souza drilled a dagger from downtown with five minutes left, snapping the run and putting paid to LCSC’s miracle hopes.

Defensively, it was a tale of two halves, as the Vandals locked down LCSC in the opening period, holding the Warriors to just 30 percent shooting. But Idaho took its foot off the gas in the second half and allowed a 40 percent performance from the floor, including King’s back-to-back-to-back makes. Johnson said his team has to learn to play 40 minutes of full-on effort without letting up.

“We got lax in the second half,” he admitted. “We feel good about our first-half effort, but we have to work on sustaining that for the whole game. We’re getting lazy and relaxing. We have to develop a killer instinct to put teams away.”

The Vandals had their best performance of the season in one noteworthy category: ball-handling. An Idaho team that had been plagued by turnovers gave up just seven tonight, against 17 assists. That pleased Verlin, who has been drilling that mentality into his players since the year’s opening tip.

“That was what I liked the best — we haven’t had a single-digit turnover game this year and tonight we changed that,” Verlin said. “We’ve been working hard there because we have the second-best field goal percentage in the conference and the best 3-point percentage in the conference. If we can stop turning the ball over, we’ll be in good shape offensively — we’ll score more and do it more efficiently.”

Johnson finished the night with 11 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists, while de Souza also reached double figures with 10 points on solid 4-for-8 shooting from the field. Jefferson added 7 points and 8 rebounds and had a turnover-free game. The Warriors were led by guard Daniel Williams, forward Tanner McIntosh and guard Markus Monroe, who each put in 10 points.

One area where Idaho regressed: free-throw shooting. Perhaps thrown off by the unfamiliar arena, the Vandals posted their worst performance of the year — an abysmal 43 percent on the night.

Idaho now gets ready for the WAC season, which will set seeding for the conference tournament in March — and in turn, that tournament’s winner goes to the NCAA Tournament. The whole year comes down to this: 16 games in two months against eight foes in four time zones. Perhaps no road trip is tougher than the one the Vandals begin this week. First, they’ll head across the Pacific to face Hawaii on Saturday, then fly back to Northern California and take on San Jose State on Monday.

“It’s a real challenge, but there’s two ways to look at this — at least we get it out of the way early,” Verlin joked.

Last year, the lowly Rainbow Warriors pasted Idaho by 30 points, and this year’s team is bent on avenging that embarassment.

“We’re definitely ready for league play, having the chance to win the WAC championship — that’s what everyone’s talking about, it’s here now,” Johnson said. “Like coach said, there’s no more Lewis and Clarks on the schedule. To beat Hawaii, we’re going to have to come out more aggressive. Last time we played them on the islands we came out relaxed and got beat. We have to take the fight to them.”

Verlin said he’s pleased with his team’s response to the adversity it faced in the last couple weeks of play, and thinks the Vandals are ready to face the challenge of high expectations.

“I feel good about where we’re at. We’re 7-4 and not a lot of Idaho teams have been 7-4,” Verlin said. “Like I told the team before the game, I got a call from a Vandal today, he reminded me that we’ve changed the culture here. People expect us to win every game and we expect to win every game. That’s a good thing. If we don’t win every game I’ll handle it, but I like it that the fans and (the press) expect it. That’s what we set out to do when we came here.”

Official Basketball Box Score

Lewis-Clark State vs Idaho
12/29/09 7 p.m. at Boise, Idaho (Qwest Arena)

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
VISITORS: Lewis-Clark State 8-5
                          TOT-FG  3-PT         REBOUNDS
## Player Name            FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF  TP  A TO BLK S MIN
02 Wallace, Terrell.... *  1-6    0-0    0-0    1  0  1   2   2  3  3  0  0  29
03 Giammona, Jared..... *  0-1    0-0    0-0    0  2  2   2   0  1  0  0  0  14
05 Williams, Daniel.... *  1-6    0-2    8-8    0  4  4   3  10  0  1  0  2  30
21 King, Alex.......... *  3-4    0-0    0-1    1  1  2   5   6  0  0  0  0  14
24 McIntosh, Tanner.... *  4-6    0-1    2-2    0  4  4   1  10  1  1  1  0  33
04 Gianukakis, Derek...    3-5    2-4    0-0    0  0  0   0   8  0  0  0  0  18
12 Sterath, Shad.......    0-0    0-0    0-0    0  0  0   0   0  0  0  0  0   2
20 Monroe, Markus......    2-11   0-2    6-9    1  2  3   2  10  2  2  0  0  27
22 Craft, James........    2-6    0-0    0-0    3  4  7   5   4  0  2  0  0  20
30 Shepard, Greg.......    1-4    0-1    0-0    1  3  4   0   2  1  1  0  1  13
   TEAM................                         2  3  5             1
   Totals..............   17-49   2-10  16-20   9 23 32  20  52  8 11  1  3 200

TOTAL FG% 1st Half:  7-24 29.2%   2nd Half: 10-25 40.0%   Game: 34.7%  DEADB
3-Pt. FG% 1st Half:  1-4  25.0%   2nd Half:  1-6  16.7%   Game: 20.0%   REBS
F Throw % 1st Half:  5-7  71.4%   2nd Half: 11-13 84.6%   Game: 80.0%   0,1

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
HOME TEAM: Idaho 7-4
                          TOT-FG  3-PT         REBOUNDS
## Player Name            FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF  TP  A TO BLK S MIN
01 Hopson, Mac......... *  4-10   2-6    5-7    2  9 11   1  15  4  2  0  3  30
05 Johnson, Steffan.... *  4-10   3-8    0-0    0  3  3   0  11  3  3  1  2  31
21 Toledo, Luiz........ *  2-2    0-0    1-3    0  2  2   4   5  1  0  0  0  20
32 Watson, Kashif...... *  3-5    0-0    0-2    0  2  2   4   6  2  0  0  1  19
53 Jefferson, Marvin... *  3-5    0-0    1-5    3  5  8   1   7  0  0  0  2  22
00 Stern, Corey........    0-1    0-0    0-0    0  1  1   0   0  0  0  0  0   2
02 Ledbetter, Jeff.....    0-0    0-0    0-0    0  0  0   2   0  0  1  0  0   6
03 Henderson, Shawn....    2-4    0-0    0-0    1  1  2   2   4  1  0  0  0  12
13 de Souza, Luciano...    4-8    2-6    0-0    0  0  0   2  10  4  1  0  0  26
20 Lawrence, Marcus....    2-5    1-3    0-0    1  0  1   1   5  1  0  0  0  12
33 Barone, Kyle........    2-2    0-0    2-4    2  4  6   0   6  1  0  1  0  17
34 Blackstock, Travis..    1-2    0-0    0-0    0  0  0   0   2  0  0  0  0   3
   TEAM................                         6     6
   Totals..............   27-54   8-23   9-21  15 27 42  17  71 17  7  2  8 200

TOTAL FG% 1st Half: 14-27 51.9%   2nd Half: 13-27 48.1%   Game: 50.0%  DEADB
3-Pt. FG% 1st Half:  4-11 36.4%   2nd Half:  4-12 33.3%   Game: 34.8%   REBS
F Throw % 1st Half:  6-12 50.0%   2nd Half:  3-9  33.3%   Game: 42.9%    0

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Officials:
Technical fouls: Lewis-Clark State-None. Idaho-Watson, Kashif.
Attendance: 4111
Score by Periods                1st  2nd   Total
Lewis-Clark State.............   20   32  -   52
Idaho.........................   38   33  -   71

Points in the paint-LCSC 14,IDAHO 26. Points off turnovers-LCSC 3,IDAHO 15.
2nd chance points-LCSC 8,IDAHO 17. Fast break points-LCSC 0,IDAHO 6.
Bench points-LCSC 24,IDAHO 27. Score tied-2 times. Lead changed-0 times.
Last FG-LCSC 2nd-01:34, IDAHO 2nd-00:38.
Largest lead-LCSC None, IDAHO by 21 2nd-11:56.
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One Response to “Blowout in Boise sends Idaho into WAC play on a high note”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Vandal Football Gameday: Humanitarian Bowl « Vandal Nation - December 30, 2009

    [...] with a 19-point victory over Lewis-Clark State in front of 4,111 fans in Qwest Arena last night. We’ve got the game story, and Sandra Kelly of the Mosc0w-Pullman Daily News chimes in with her [...]

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